Any Bull fan in the Windy City can tell you what's wrong with the team: Scottie Pippen.
The Bulls have been inconsistent in the playoffs because Pippen has been inconsistent. When Pippen has played well, they have won. And when he has played poorly, they have lost.
Pippen, who complained that he wasn't involved in the Bulls' offense after getting only three shots in the second half of a 14-point loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals, scored 14 points and grabbed 15 rebounds as the Bulls used a 15-0 run at the start of the fourth quarter to defeat the Cavaliers, 112-89, in Game 5 Wednesday night before 18,676 at Chicago Stadium.
"I was misquoted," Pippen said. "I wasn't really concerned about the shots. I just wanted the opportunity to get involved in the offense and try to make things happen. That was the thing I was upset about the last game, that I wasn't able to push the ball upcourt.
"I think the press blew things out of proportion. I just didn't get a chance to take my shots. But I felt comfortable tonight."
"He's catching a lot of heat because of what his productivity
means to this team's success," Michael Jordan said of Pippen. "He's become the focal point and that's unfair to an extent. Everybody's entitled to have bad games, but his bad games are magnified more than other people's bad games.
"But this is what he's got to deal with. If I have a bad game, I come out and tell you guys that I played a (bad) game and try to redeem myself."
Pippen, who appeared tentative at the start of the game as he missed four of his first six shots, made six of 14 shots from the floor and two of six free throws. He also had a team-high six assists and one steal in 32 minutes.
"I think there was a lot of pressure on Scottie," Bull Coach Phil Jackson said. "Scottie started slow, but after he loosened up and got a little feel for the game he played well. His effort was terrific."
Jordan scored 37 points, 20 in the first half, as the Bulls took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. The defending NBA champions can advance to the NBA finals for the second consecutive season with a victory in Game 6 Friday night at Richfield, Ohio.
Cleveland center Brad Daugherty, who was averaging a team-high 20.8 points and 10 rebounds in the series, injured his right hand early in the game and made only one of 10 shots and three of four free throws. Daugherty, who failed to score in the first 34 minutes 14 seconds, finished with five points. He will have X-rays today to determine the extent of the injury.
Leading 73-71 going into the final quarter, the Bulls blitzed the Cavaliers, 15-0, in the next 5 1/2 minutes and wound up outscoring Cleveland, 39-18, in the fourth quarter.
"It was great defense," Jordan said of the Bulls' spurt. "You've got to give the credit to the defense. We have to give ourselves some credit. We controlled everything in the fourth quarter."
The Cavaliers collapsed in the fourth quarter, shooting 26% and turning over the ball six times, which Chicago converted into 11 points. Cleveland didn't have a field goal in the first 8:18 of the final quarter.
Bull reserve forward Stacey King was ejected after fouling Cavalier forward Danny Ferry with 1:02 remaining. King grabbed Ferry around the neck as Ferry was driving for a layup. Ferry was ejected and fined $5,000 by the NBA for throwing a punch at Jordan in Game 4.
Cavalier guard Steve Kerr came to the defense of Ferry, grabbing King as both benches emptied.
"I don't know what caused what happened and I'm not concerned about it," Ferry said. "I didn't see where he came from or what it looked like. It was a hard foul, but I wasn't hurt and didn't get my bell rung. I think it was great that Steve stood up for me.
"From what I hear it was very intentional, but I couldn't tell from my angle. I expected the boos, but nothing more. What I did to Jordan was not intentional, but I had a short fuse and responded to what happened to me. Tonight you will have to ask Stacey and not me."
King said it wasn't intentional.
"It was a hard foul, but there was no malice intended," King said. "There was no payback intended. It was just a hard foul."
Jordan had criticized the Bulls' bench for not contributing after Cleveland reserve forward John (Hot Rod) Williams outscored the Bulls' reserves, 18-15, in Game 4.
Motivated by Jordan, the Bulls' bench outscored the Cavalier reserves, 38-26. Guard B.J. Armstrong, forward Cliff Levingston and center Scott Williams each had 12 points.
Guard Mark Price, who led Cleveland with 24 points, scored 16 points in the third quarter, making three three-point shots, as the Cavaliers, who trailed by eight points at halftime, outscored the Bulls, 33-27, to trim the deficit to 73-71 going into the fourth quarter.